We Americans Are An Ambitious Lot

In a country where “the pursuit of happiness” is a cherished right (and nearly an obligation), you’d expect people to be ambitious. And they don’t disappoint, judging by a poll conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates Marketing Research of Palos Verdes/Redondo Beach, Calif. As you can see in the chart below, few adults confess to being utterly unambitious, while lots are highly ambitious. Indeed, there has been a modest but measurable increase in ambitiousness since 1998, when we last posed this question. In the earlier poll, respondents’ answers averaged out to 3.8 on the 5-point scale; this time, they average out to 4.0. There’s also been a significant rise in the proportion of respondents who rate themselves at a 4 or 5, from 58 percent then to 75 percent now. Are men more ambitious than women? Yes, but the disparity is not as large as you might guess. Among the men, 77 percent graded their ambition at a 4 or 5; among the women, 73 percent did so. There was a somewhat bigger gap when one looks solely at the number of respondents who rated themselves at a 5. Among the men, 35 percent gave themselves that most-ambitious score; of the women, 29 percent did so. Meanwhile, the survey’s findings indicate that ambition does work: Respondents with yearly household income of $100,000-plus were more likely to rate themselves as highly ambitious than those with income under that threshold. If you want to be financially successful, it seems ambition is not a grievous fault.